Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Top 100 Comedy Albums on Spotify: Part Four - The Grand Finale

At last.



Demetri Martin – These Are Jokes (2006)

One of the nicest finds on here.

“I find at most theme parks, the theme is: ‘wait in line, fatty’.”

“Every fight is a food fight, if you’re a cannibal.”

“A musical is the same as a burlap sack. I wouldn’t want to be in either.”

“I think vests are all about protection. A life vest protects you from drowning. A bullet-proof vest protects you from getting shot. A sweater vest protects you from pretty girls.”

It’s the deft verbal steering that really warms us to Demetri Martin’s act. On that last joke, 99.99% of American stand-ups would have said “gettin’ laid”, “pussy” or something similar. Martin goes with ‘pretty girls’, which is that extra bit funnier. Sure, it might not hit home as well with the drunk frat boy in a comedy club on a Saturday night demographic, but it’s better in every way. It shows he has thought about every last word in his act, instead of merely coming up with the idea for a joke, then getting there as quickly as possible so he can move onto the next one. A happy blend of Stephen Wright-type economy, and Jack Handley-esque absurdity. Marvellous. One more? One more.

“Swimming’s an odd sport. Sometimes you do it for fun, but sometimes you do it to not die. When I’m swimming, I sometimes forget which one it is. I have to check my outfit. Pants – uh oh. Bathing suit – okay. Naked – we’ll see.”



Bernard Cribbins – The Very Best Of (2004)

A collection of musical musings from the saving grace of Doctor Who: The Catherine Tate Era. There’s nothing too challenging, but everything here is jolly enough to hold your attention for a while, even if it’s only to play “identify the dodgiest double entendre”. If nothing else, check out “Right Said Fred”, the Telegoon singalong that inspired the name of a certain set of hairless 90s pop irritants.


Neil Innes – Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues (1995)

While this may not technically fit into the cubby-hole marked “comedy albums”, former Bonzo Dog Innes was a surrogate member of Monty Python, and an integral part of The Rutles, so we’re saying that’s reason enough. This is basically a fleshed out version of Innes’ 1973 solo debut album “How Sweet to Be an Idiot”, and that’s not even remotely a bad thing. Entertainingly, Michael Palin guests on the title track, and (as you might expect) it includes the majestic How Sweet To Be An Idiot. Indeed, an ‘idiot’ you would be to not give this download a spin.


Vivian Stanshall – Sir Henry At Rawlinson End (1978)

Speaking of former Bonzos, here’s Viv Stanshall cataloguing the goings on at Rawlinson End. Now, we’re probably going to get a three-week ban from the internet for saying this, but despite repeated attempts, we’ve never really ‘got’ this album. Sorry. Nonetheless, if you’re better at liking comedy than us, this is for you.


Lewis Black – Rules of Enragement (2003)

Here’s something more up our street, a shouty American who yells expletives frequently while pretending to get angry about stuff.

“The only people who buy penis enlargement pills must be so dumb, they’re feeding them to their penis.”


Dave Attell – Skanks For The Memories (2003)

“Do you think that was homophobic? I think that it was, ‘cos I hear that a lot. “Dave,” “What?” “You’re talking about being gay. You probably secretly are gay.” And I’m like, “listen, Voice In My Head, I’m not!””


Mel Smith and Griff-Rhys Jones – Smith & Jones Live (2003)

Another of our favourite Spoti-finds (clever wording, we know). This disc sees highlights of the duo’s One Night Stand live show, of which a different recording was available on VHS in the mid 1990s. Sadly, one of the best jokes from the live VHS is missing (“well, can you describe him?” “He’s a cunt!”), but that doesn’t mean the material making the compilation album is tame:

[In a sketch where Griff is worried that he’s contracted VD.]

Griff: “I’ve got this unsightly lump on the end of my cock.”

[Pause while the audience giggling dies down.]

Mel: “Well, that’s your body, isn’t it?”

[Huge reaction from audience.]

Mel: “Look, don’t worry about it. Just go down to the clinic, and… let them have a look at your ‘old man’.”

Griff [alarmed]: “I’m not takin’ ‘im with me! I wanna go on my own!”

Look, it’s all in the performance, okay? Meanwhile, as for that long-deleted live VHS show, YouTube shall provide. (Actually, that’ll make an excellent ‘holding update’ while we finish writing this, so you’ll have probably seen it by now. As a special bonus, you can measure the time between whenever it was we posted a link to the Smith & Jones Live video and now. That amount of time is how long it takes us to get things like this done! We’re rubbish!


Bob Newhart – Something Like This… The Bob Newhart Anthology (2007)

File under ‘quietly splendid’. Bob Newhart puts himself into the notional shoes of people in a number of different situations, giving each monologue that special Newhart spin, along with more traditional riffs on subjects such as ‘the difficulty people who happen to look like Adolf Hitler in using commercial airlines’. While much of the humour getting the live crowd going in these recordings is mainly down to 1960s-era shock value (i.e. mentioning toilets or making oblique references to sex), the remainder still has plenty to be said about the human condition.

“Look Johnny, sometimes daddies get ‘weekend colds’.” – Daddy Of All Hangovers.


Harry Shearer – Songs of the Bushmen (2008)

A more contemporary slice of excellence now, from the pen of Harry “Derek Smalls Monty Burns Ned Flanders Etc Etc” Shearer (and mouth, along with that of wife Judith Owen). This recording compiles his recordings from NPR’s Le Show, purporting to be a series of songs performed by members of the Bush administration. Great stuff.

Example lyrics: “gym buds,  the pres and me, / no gifts or taxes / could buy a gal such access / gym buds / but how soon I learned / mornings to me he'd respond / but by noon, he'd been neoconned”, from Gym Buds, a plaintive yet techno-tinged ditty from the perspective of Condoleezza Rice. Lyrics are contained on Shearer’s own website, coincidentally.

See also the Harry Shearer’s other collection of songs from Le Show (this time taking on a broader range of topics), Songs Pointed And Pointless (2007).


Emergency Broadcast Network – Telecommunication Breakdown (1995)

Now, you might well argue that this doesn’t belong in a list of comedy albums. For starters, it’s a techno album, rather than something with jokes on it, and for pudding, you don’t get the full impact of the album without the graphics-and-video-packed CD-ROM issued with the original (ah, remember when CD-ROMs were the big thing? It was what computer magazines in the mid-90s decided were going to be The Future, not jumped-up BBS The Inter-Net). Well, we’re saying the mesmerising fusion of cut-up samples from US news networks, movies, TV shows, thumping beats and deft lyricism are worthy of inclusion here, especially as BrokenTV is meant to be about telly. So there.

If you do get a chance to see the videos from this (they’re all on YouTube. Look, here’s one), do so. If nothing else, they help to highlight how shit-scary it must have been for tiny children to tune into tests of the Emergency Broadcast System itself in the 1970s and 1980s. The eerie lo-fi graphics and chilling tone would have scared the living bejesus out of us, even more so if it was after the time we’d watched Threads at the foolishly young age of 11.



Tenacious D – Tenacious D (2001)

Yeah, yeah. So what if most people thought Tenacious D were brilliant for a month in 2001 before filing them at the back of their minds, until they saw the adverts for Pick Of Destiny, which they then didn’t watch because it was pish? After giving it a rest of several years, this album is still enjoyable even now. Plus, lest we forget, the ace video for Fuck Her Gently was directed by John Kricfalusi, so there’s another plus point.



Arthur Askey – The Best Of: The Bee Song (2008)

Ah, that seldom-used segue from “Fuck Her Gently” to “Arthur Askey”. It’s one of the hardest links in the world of competitive blogging, and it’s safe to say we haven’t quite pulled it off. Still, at least we haven’t tried to mine the limited comedy potential of Askey’s song about a young girl begging soldiers to bring her a banana back from the continent during wartime. It’s called “I Want A Banana”. ANYWAY, here's Arthur Askey. We can't help but wonder what the listening figures for this are, given the limited correlation between the "those who embrace bleeding-edge online technology" and "people who like Arthur Askey" demographics. A bit like the way Last Of The Summer Wine is recorded and broadcast in HD, even though most of its fanbase haven't even got around to buying a widescreen telly yet.



Rolf Harris – The Best of Rolf Harris (2003)

Perennial target of mean-spirited shitbag stand-ups, Rolf Harris is, of course, utterly splendid. If you’re going to claim Rolf is crap, can you honestly say that (a) you didn’t love Rolf’s Cartoon Club, or that (b) if he was your uncle, you wouldn’t think he was absolutely fantastic bloody  fun? This album includes Rolf’s cover version of Stairway To Heaven, which we’re saying is immeasurably superior to the original, by way of not even infuriatingly po-faced. It made the top ten singles chart in 1993, for flip’s sake, and not everyone who bought it was an achingly ironic student, surely?




Maria Bamford – The Burning Bridges Tour (2005) | How To Win! (2007) | Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome (2009)

A lady comedian, and not just a lady comedian we’ve included as last-ditch attempt to avoid being called misogynistic. Hey, it’s not our fault Sarah Silverman isn’t on Spotify yet. Best known to us as Alarming Home Shopping Presenter from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Maria Bamford hasn’t really popped up on our comedy radar in her capacity as a stand-up comedian until now, but she seems rather good. We’ll check out her work more thoroughly when we’ve finished Trying To Listen To About 200 Comedy Albums Within A Few Weeks To Work Out Which Ones Are The Best. Honestly, it could’ve been the thirteenth task of Hercules. Yes, we do want a sodding medal, actually.

“I was in a lot of plays. We had a weird drama teacher in that he was incredibly enthusiastic about a high school drama program and would talk to all the kids for hours. He ended up marrying one of the kids, but that's neither here nor there.”



Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Alan Bennett – The Complete Beyond The Fringe (1989)

“I could’ve been a judge, but I never ‘ad the Latin.” And so on, in this three disc monster. Rigorous, but hugely worthwhile.

 x10sctmp11The Goons – The Goons Vol. Two (2001)

“Withhold your two-octave conk punch, while I unfold the tale of a certain story.”

From as far back as 1954, here’s another three splendid episodes of The Go On Show.

Red Bladder: “OK, and don't forget to put the cat out, he's a British spy.”
Bluebottle: “You rotten swine, you give me away now. My disguise was perfect until you said that.”

Notable mention: Unchained Melodies – The Complete Recordings 1955-1978, a collection of songs by The Goons.


Various – The Greatest Comedy of All Time (2007)

Taking in the likes of George Burns, Gracie Allen, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, this huge two-disc compilation is your one-stop low-quality radio recording destination for enjoyable elderly American comedy.


Lenny Bruce – The Lenny Bruce Originals (1991)

A handy guide to one of the most important comedians of the 20th century, even if he wasn’t necessarily that funny to our ears. To be fair, if it wasn’t for Lenny Bruce, Lord Bob Monkhouse wouldn’t have used the word ‘cunt’ in the first chapter of his “Over The Limit” autobiography, which certainly surprised us. He also mentions Mortal Kombat later on in the same book. Bob Monkhouse was brilliant, but as his work sadly isn’t on Spotify, this is probably the only excuse we’ll get to mention him.



Dov Davidoff – The Point Is (2008)

”I don’t get why frustrated drunk guys in bars would want to beat up a gay guy. If you’re having trouble getting laid, take on the enemy – beat up a good looking straight guy.”



Russell Brand – The Best Of What’s Legal (2009)

Oh dear. We won’t be able to get through the synopsis of this compilation (of prime cuts from Brand’s BBC Radio shows) without mentioning a certain cast member of Dead Ernest. We’d better restrict ourselves to saying how it’s a shame that this seems to be the only BBC Radio show compilation currently on Spotify, which will be because Brand’s show was produced by his own production company, who’ll have given permission for it to be on Spotify. Fingers crossed for the BBC Radio Collection appearing soon, mainly so we can hear staggeringly great The Mark Radcliffe Show (Graveyard Shift Years) ‘Best Of’ on there. Seriously, that’s the sort of thing which should really be on BBC7.



 Marc Maron – Tickets Still Available (2006)

Another chance to enjoy the work of Marc Maron, as mentioned a couple of times before now. Ignore the badly drawn cover picture (this is where someone posts a comment saying it was scribbled by a quadriplegic war hero, making us feel like twats), and dip into the above-par meanderings within.

“You ever hated yourself so much, you had to take a nap?”



Daniel Tosh – True Stories I Made Up (2005)

“I love the internet, because now we have rappers that used to be gangsters and thugs telling us not to download music, because it’s stealing.”

x10sctmp19Christian Finnegan – Two For Flinching (2006)

“I used to work in an office which had a condom machine in the bathroom. Now, let me tell you, I’ve had some pretty good days at work, but not so good I’ve had to call on Trojan Man at the end of the day. That’s got to be one impressive Excel spreadsheet you’ve put together, for there to be pussy at the end of that rainbow. “Your choice of font gets me so hot. Was that Helvetica Bold?” Come on, nerds, where are you going to hear a better font joke than that? San-serif, motherfuckers!”

Jokes about Microsoft Excel and Helvetica Bold? Brilliant!


Tom Lehrer – In Concert (1960)

We’ll round things off with US comedy colossus Tom Lehrer. Hey, this disc is from 1960, so it’s all going to be then-topical riffs on bubblegum and malt bars, isn’t it? Well: no. While Lehrer was a respected Harvard mathematics professor with a penchant for performing wry ditties whilst sat at a piano, the subject matter of his songs could rival Stephen “Baby Bird” Jones at his darkest (yes, Baby Bird, listen to the lo-fi albums, tsk). For example, “I Hold Your Hand In Mine” is a love song, performed by a man kissing the severed hand of his long-dead lover. “The Irish Ballad” is about a young girl from the Emerald Isle who murders the other members of her family. Meanwhile, the song “Oedipus Rex” is about… well, you guess.

He didn’t just perform material that could just as easily be the result of Richard Stilgoe teaming up with Cannibal Corpse, he later became pianist-in-residence for the short-lived NBC version of That Was The Week That Was (and indeed, was featured in the great Billy Crystal-fronted PBS/TLC/BBC Wales documentary Make ‘Em Laugh on this history of US comedy, performing a brilliant wordplay-heavy song defending the use of smut in comedy), but his material makes for a refreshingly acerbic antidote to the clean-cut fare from many other comics of his age. He also pops up in compilation Hey Mr Producer!: The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh, singing a lovely tune called “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park”.


And, with talk of Harvard tunesmiths pumping pigeons full of toxins on municipal land, that’s it. The end of the list. A quick count reveals that our Top 100 has actually linked to a total of 114 comedy albums, so if you dislike fewer than fourteen of them, the original boast is still accurate. Here’s a Spotify playlist link to the whole lot of them, with the link also including a couple of dozen other albums we’ve not mentioned, either because we’d felt we’d already covered the artist in question, they didn’t quite fit in with what we’re doing here, or that they were a bit rubbish.

Finally, a quick word of oh-they’ll-probably-never-read-this-anyway thanks to both Graham Linehan and Spotify itself, for both mentioning our list in their Twitter feeds, which made The BrokenTV Gang feel like they were running a proper website for a bit. Hopefully, if the iPhone app and eventual North America launch make Spotify even more popular, we’ll see more comedy acts added to their roster (fingers crossed for the BBC Radio Collection), we’ll be able to compile a Top 100 Comedy Albums On Spotify That We Haven’t Mentioned Yet at some point in the future. Until then, stay classy Spotiverse.


5 .:

Tanya Jones said...

Yay for this! In a related vein, you may be interested in my 'Best of British Comedy' review:

Another great contribution! said...

Splendid work, Brokes. Emergency Broadcast Network of course qualify: anyone who illustrates a Groovy Western Pop Music beat by looping a shot of a military test subject in a scientific bobble-hat passing out in a gyroscope has a fine orb for chuckles.

There are indeed many EBN vids on Y Tube, but they're less tiny and squidgy at (Flash req, a whole EBN Live Show) and (ex-EBN frontbloke, with enorm-o-vid downloads; Quicktime, but play fine with VLC).

Mark X said...

Cheers Tanya. I think I may have mentioned on Twitter that NTS is a brilliant site, with a special retaliatory Yay for your piece on the magnificent Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins ( for anyone who hasn't read it).

Thanks for the links AGC-o. I was going to check them over cocoa, but got distracted by reading and replying to the Have You Say-ish shenanigans in the comments for the blog post on the licence fee ( Will check them tomorrow. I do hope they've retained that authentic "stumbled over them in a bleary fug at 3am on MTV Party Zone in 1994" charm.

Mark X said...

Have You(r) Say, of course. ("Look, leave it. It's not worth it, son." - The Spellcheck Bouncers.)

Jeroen Koster said...

What a great list! Thanks for compiling this.

I had already found a few comedians / albums myself. Perhaps they didn't make the cut in your list. Or perhaps they just they weren't available when you made this list. In that case: they are, for your consideration:

- George Carlin
- Lisa Lampanelli (3 albums)
- Norm MacDonald (Ridiculous)
- Greg Giraldo (2 albums)
- Jeff Garlin

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